Samuel Sampson Bacon 1809-1876
Obituary July 22 1876
[19th century newspaper cutting from The South London Times]
On the 11th instant there departed this life an old inhabitant of South London – one who had passed 60 years of his allotted space within a few hundred yards at least of the house in which he died.
Samuel Sampson Bacon was born at Hatfield Broad Oak, in Essex, on June 22 1809. A rather amusing story is told to this effect: When his parents proposed to take him to church for baptism, it so happened that on that particular Sunday, the vicar did not intend holding any service, and as was his wont, sent the old clerk round to announce this in the village, and to Mr Bacon’s father came this message: “Mr Fowler’s compliments, and there will be no service today”. The prompt answer was: “Give my compliments to Mr Fowler, and tell him if he cannot do his duty, he must do as I have to do. If I cannot attend to my business myself, I have to employ a deputy to do it for me; and say, if you please, that I have an infant to be christened today, and shall be at church at the usual time this afternoon.” The old clerk returned with his message, whereupon he had orders to go up into the belfry, and if he saw Mr Bacon and his baby coming, he was to toll the bell, and then the vicar would come. True to time, and against the remonstrances of some who thought it would not do to offend Mr Fowler, the father, who was master of his own household, started with the mother and the sponsors, and as soon as they came in sight of the church the bell began tolling, and at the font stood the clergyman, surplice and ready for duty. Not a word passed between the two gentlemen, but ever afterwards a very respectful but distant courtesy marked their scant intercourse. In these days of revived energy, rural deans, &c, we presume that even in a country village the parson would scarcely put off the Sunday service in this unceremonious style.
The family removed to London, when Samuel, who was the youngest of 10 [sic], was about seven years of age, and settled somewhere about Lock’s Fields – when there really were fields in that locality. Very soon afterwards Samuel was sent to the Weslyan Methodist Sunday-School in Crosby Row, Long Lane, Bermondsey. The little chapel there was built by the Rev John Wesley, MA, and there he used to preach himself. In 1805 0r 1808 the fine large building known now as Southwark Chapel was erected to supersede the humbler little house in Crosby-Row, which, however was still used as a school on Sunday. The connection formed thus early was never severed; for as a scholar, teacher, visitor, and finally as Superintendent, for upwards of 59 years, first at the old premises, and subsequently when new schools were raised beside Southwark Chapel, Mr Bacon remained in association with this now venerable institution. He was a fully-accredited member of the Wesleyan Church for 50 years, during 40 years of which he held the office of a class-leader. He used sometimes to say that he, at any rate, was in the Apostolical succession, as his predecessor in that office was appointed by Mr Wesley himself.
During the whole of the half-century which elapsed from the time of his joining the church of his choice till his death, he led the life of a humble and consistent Christian. In his youth he was apprenticed to the firm of Jephson Brothers, Castle Street, Southwark, hatters, and followed the trade till about 1846, when he went into business as a cheesemonger, &c, in White Street, Borough. Here he remained till 1858, when he removed to Union Road, and continued an occupation he had been following for some time prior to his relinquishing his own business – viz - travelling in town and country in the tobacco line.
By very many who peruse this journal, he was well known and much respected, for his religion was of a character that while it made him very careful to walk consistently, it did not make him hard or morose. He had a genial and pleasant word for all with whom he came in contact.
In the month of February this year increasing infirmities compelled him to relinquish his worldly calling; but He whom he had served so long did not desert him in his time of need. He was now compelled also to resign his active duties as superintendent of the Sunday schools he loved so dearly; and the friends with whom he had worked so long and so lovingly made him a present of a very beautifully illuminated address, and an accompanying purse of 50 guineas. He was too weak to attend the meeting at which he was to have received it. So a deputation, consisting of the Rev Benjamin Browne (the superintendent minister of the Southwark circuit) and some others, made the presentation at his own home, 1 Spring Garden Terrace, Falmouth Road. He took to his bed about six weeks since, perfectly conscious, nay, certain, that it would be his bed of death, but in complete submission to the will of his heavenly Father; and during his illness his faith was never shaken, but his soul was sweetly sustained in perfect peace even to the end.
He calmly passed away, relying on the merits of his Divine Redeemer, at 25 minutes to 2 on Tuesday morning, the 11th instant, at the age of 67, his last utterance being “Safe in Jesus”.
He was interred at Camberwell Forest Hill Cemetery on Friday the 14th, his remains being first taken to Southwark Chapel, Long Lane, where the preliminary part of the usual service was performed, and a hymn sung, after which the mournful procession wended its way to the cemetery, where all that was mortal was committed to the dust, in sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life.
On Sunday evening, the 26th, a funeral sermon was preached in the old sanctuary so dear to him by the Rev B Browne, from Timothy II, iv, 6,7,& 8. In this really excellent discourse, the preacher referred first to the Apostle’s present experience: “I am now ready to be offered, the time of my departure is at hand;” secondly, his review of his past life: “I have fought a good fight - I have finished my course – I have kept the faith;” and thirdly, his future prospects: “Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,” &c. Of course these points could be, and were made to bear very appropriately in the case of the departed – a masterly sketch of the life-work, and an equally forcible delineation of character, brought to a close that which had been listened to with breathless attention by the large and sympathizing congregation. After the concluding prayer, the choir, which had been evidently augmented and strengthened for the occasion, sang Pope’s ode, “Vital spark of heavenly flame,” and, in a very efficient and telling manner, accompanied by the newly-elected organist of the chapel, Mr Leary, in such a way that many said they never had heard this touching piece sung and played so well before. The congregation then retired to the strains of the “Dead March;” and so this most impressive and long-to-be-remembered service was brought to a close.
As a man, Mr Bacon was straightforward and honourable to a degree. Crooked paths and devious ways his soul abhorred. As a Christian he was humble, earnest and devout; as a husband he was as tender and devoted as could well be imagined; as a father he was loving, gentle, yet firm and authoritative, master in his own family, as his father was before him; as a friend he was steadfast, candid, reliable, and true as steel; as one who held office in the church ,he watched for the souls committed to his care as one that must give account; as a Sunday-school superintendent he was firm upholder of order, punctuality, and regularity in attendance. For many weeks, he took his lunch in the vestry every Sunday, as he grew too feeble to journey to and from the school twice on the Sunday. His position in life throughout was but a comparatively humble one. Yet the truth of the passage of Scripture, which says, “Him that honoureth Me I will honour,” was fulfilled in his case, as many came to witness his funeral obsequies. The chapel authorities draped their pulpit, reading-desk and organ in black. The two doctors who had visited him – the one as his medical advisor, the other out of respect and esteem as a friend – both followed his remains in their own carriages, unexpectedly, and certainly unsolicited. It might be said of him that “He rests from his labours, and his works do follow him.”